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Helen M. Amundson

March 20, 1927 ~ September 19, 2017 (age 90)

The Piano Brothers
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Helen Marie Rogers Amundson, a child of the Great Depression who grew up to be twice chosen, along with her husband Les, to lead community celebrations in her hometown of Sunnyside, died September 19, 2017 in Sunnyside, WA.  She was 90.  Delivered at her home near Outlook on March 20, 1927, Helen was the youngest of seven sons and seven daughters born to W.W. and Martha E. Rogers, who migrated west from Monroe County, Tennessee, in 1904.  The family farmed first in Whitman County near St. John, then in 1919 relocated to Outlook, where W.W. built a four-bedroom house and farmed 40 acres on N. Price Road.  “Daddy built the house and everybody slept double,” Helen recalled at a family gathering in April 2017. Hers was a Great Depression childhood.  “I was 12 when Mom died; there were four of us kids still at home.” She talked about the poverty of those years.  “We were self-sufficient.  We had our own livestock.  We lived off the land.  We didn’t buy anything.  Mom made all our own butter.  She took eggs to the store in exchange for flour and the basics.” Her mother sewed the family’s clothes, salvaging the printed fabric of flour sacks for the girls’ dresses.  Those conditions prevented many of her siblings from completing school.  Helen, however, was determined.  She attended Independence School, a two-room school on Independence Road north of Outlook.  In 1945, she graduated from Sunnyside High School.  Not long after, she met Les, a decorated Army Air Corps B-17 pilot just home from World War II.  “I was working at the post office and he just kept hanging around,” Helen recalled.  That courtship led to a wedding on May 24, 1946, a union that lasted 71 years, yielding five children, 11 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.  “My family has been my biggest achievement-all of them are independent,” said Helen, recalling the many gatherings at the family 10 –acre farm on Wells Road south of Sunnyside which she and Les bought in 1950 and which remains in the family today.   Besides family and farm, Helen often worked at her husband’s family business, Amundson Hardware, a major retailer of hardware and furniture in the Lower Valley from 1909 until 1984.  She and Les were involved in many community activities as well, and were recognized at least twice for their service: sharing parade grand marshal honors for the 1997 Country Christmas Lighted Farm Implement Parade, and again for the 2002 Sunnyside Days parade.  But Helen’s main focus was family, and many of the survival skills she  learned at her  mother’s knee during the Great Depression-gardening, cooking, sewing, canning, etc.- served her well as she cared for her own family on Wells Road.  Besides her husband Les, Helen is survived by four daughters:  Paul Culver and Gayle Pykonen, both of Sunnyside; Bunny Martinez (Mike), Moxee and Geri Setter (Jon), Seattle; and one son, Max Amundson (Dixie), Prosser; 12 grandchildren: Damon Culver (Mechele), Prosser; Eric Pykonen (Stephanie), Wayne Pykonen (Shannon), and Tom Pykonen (Lindsey), all of the Portland area; Janet Pykonen-Minton of Prosser; Alyana Martinez, Moxee; Jannine Setter (Beren), Portland; Eric Setter (Alayna), of  Rio Rancho New Mexico; Donny Allen (Stephanie) of Augusta, GA, Daniel Allen (Michelle) of Ridgefield, WA, Devon Allen of Columbus, OH; 14 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter.  Besides her parents and 13 siblings, Helen was preceded in death by one granddaughter, Christy Setter.   Inurnment and a Celebration of Life will be at a later date.  Smith Funeral Home in care of arrangements. Those wishing to sign Helen’s online memorial book may do so at www.funeralhomesmith.com  


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